West Cleveland Baptist Church

"Followers of Christ leading others to know and follow Christ."

Glancing at the past – Driving toward the Future

The largest consolidated effort to reach our community came and went on September 24, 2017. It was an awesome service! We decided to take the 75th Anniversary of our church and make a special effort to reach our community. We cancelled Sunday school for the morning, started church 30 minutes early, and had several components where we gave a tip of the cap toward our history. Let’s not forget we also had a HUGE dinner afterwards. It was a special time to meet people that were important in the history of the church.

When you celebrate an anniversary, there is a certain amount of looking back that goes along with it. The thrust of the sermon that morning was that we need not crane our necks toward the past when God is moving in our present and is guiding us toward an exciting future. God is so good!

While the feedback from the service was overall very positive, I have a few thoughts that I’d like to share:

  • Joyful workers – Leading up to this special service, we had people stepping up to help in a variety of ways. It was nice to see the completion of that work. Most of those workers got to the end of the service, and you could see the look of joy on their face as their work transformed from duty to worship somewhere along the way. There is a lesson to learn there: Worship is a matter of the heart rather than dependent on your circumstances. Get back to the “heart of worship”, and you will find joy in all that you do.
  • New friends – Part of our efforts to reach our community consisted of hanging a door hanger on every door within a half mile of the church to advertise the service. I found myself wondering how effective that would be. The Thursday prior to the service, I was hanging tags on the homes located on our street – Westland Drive. As I hung a tag on one home about 200 yards from our church, a lady named Nora came out to greet me. She is 76 years old and was keeping her great grand-daughter this particular day. We spoke for just a few moments, and then I went on my way. It was so encouraging to see Nora at our church on Sunday, and she even put on her information card: “I am a guest of: Matt Ward”… It is a blessing to make new friends from our community. I’m praying that doors would open wide for us to minister to some of these new friends!
  • Old friends – We had several revered people from our church’s past in attendance that particular Sunday. There were two “old friends” that stand out as a blessing to me:
    • Shawn and Tim Caylor are friends that I made recently on a mission trip to Houston. I was the “team leader”, and this was the first mission trip they had taken together as a couple. I would guess that it will probably be the first of many, but we will see. It was such a blessing to look up and see my “old friends” pop into our church service.
    • The old friend that stands out most in my mind was one of my best friends from high school – Nicholas Fields. We had not seen each other in close to 10 years and had not spoken in quite a while. I knew Nick was struggling through several medical issues, and he has been in a crisis of faith for some time. God brought him to our church that day – and it was such a personal blessing of mine to see him and pray with him for increased faith. Would you join me in saying a prayer for Nicholas Fields?

Ultimately, whether it was old friends or new friends or somewhere in between, it was a great day for the life of our church. I look forward to God guiding and directing us to continue reaching our community in new ways as we move forward. It has to be about seeing people come to know Christ and begin their journey toward discipleship. Lord, bless us as we make it our mission and goal to reach people with Your Gospel!

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A Mutual Blessing… Day 4 in the Field

Today we knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing. We were headed back to our friend Michael’s house to finish the job on his big home. You may have seen the pictures from yesterday’s post  where Michael’s home was filled with 5 feet of water. He also lost a truck, a Mercedes, and a Harley to the flood waters in his garage. It was amazing to see the amount of damage done to a home filled with flood waters.


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When tragedy strikes somewhere other than my home, I’m sure my thought process is similar to that of many others. “I wish there was just something I could do!” I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be here doing my part to help for a week. I have found myself repeatedly thanking the owners of the homes for the opportunity to be with them for a day or two. Michael was always quick to correct me with his encouraging smile and voice, “The blessing is mine! Thank you guys for coming out! I don’t know what I’d be doing without someone to help.”

That’s really the amazing part about this home and owner for me. Here’s a guy that owns a nice home that is wrecked after the storm. He is obviously going to be dealing with emotional attachments to things he has lost for some time as he copes with the events of this tragedy. For two full days, he watches and works with us to carry everything from the first floor to the road. He has to deal with scavengers stopping by to ask if they can dig through the pile to look for scrap metal and whatever else they are after. He had to wait on the FEMA inspector to show up today at 10 AM to look through his house and decide whatever it is they decide…. It all feels like the world is moving on – and all these homeowners need is a breath of fresh air and a minute to process what’s going on. It is all so unpredictable – like driving a curvy road on a foggy day.

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With all that said, when we show up to help, Michael constantly reminded us that “God sent us” to him, and ultimately that God is good! In the midst of life’s storms, there is only one place to find refuge. Having faith isn’t about re-visualizing all the events of life as pleasant… having faith is understanding that God is good no matter what may come. Don’t see God through the filter of of your circumstances – see your circumstances through the filter of God’s goodness. Our neighbors in Texas, Florida, and everywhere in between are being put through a real test right now. We should uplift them in prayer and pray that they would lean on the one true God – for He alone is good!


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“God sent you guys…” – Day 3 in the field

Today we went to the house of a man that had a really scary experience in the flood. You can see from the featured picture where the water line was on the glass door. The paper I got described 60 inches of water that had been in this house! I knew the house would be in rough shape, but I didn’t know there would be a scary story attached to it.

Michael has lived in this house long enough to weather a few storms. He has gotten used to expecting these bad storms to pass by without really needing to evacuate. He stayed in his home as the flood waters came in… and they continued to rise. He was in the water up to his chin when he decided to get on his roof so that he could hop in his boat and get out of there. When he hopped into his boat to make a getaway, the battery was dead. He had to flag down a rescue boat to get out of the storms and rising flood waters.

His house is large. It’s a 5 bedroom house with lots of bathrooms and closets. Our team worked really hard today to rip out all of the sheetrock, tile, insulation, doors, etc. It was a huge job. Michael stayed in there and worked HARD all day long with us. With all of us working hard, we still were not able to finish it today, but we knocked most of it out. We look forward to finishing tomorrow and setting our new friend up for the next steps of getting his home back in order. See the pictures below for an idea of what his neighborhood looks like….

We will be back at it tomorrow with just a few days to go. It’s been an awesome trip with a great team. God is being made known to the people of this community in a big way!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

The work continues…

Today was our second day on the job. Yesterday, we had last week’s team still here to work with us, but they left this morning at 3 AM. So we were on our own today.

I was unfortunately called on to be team leader for this group – which really shows what kind of pinch they were in! One of my duties as team lead is to get up and go to the command cell to get an assignment each day. The command cell is operated by Southern Baptists from Arkansas. Milling around the Arkansas trailer is an enormous group from Arizona. I noticed a few days ago that the team leader is oftentimes referred to as the “blue hat”. I didn’t understand it then, but now I do. Arizona’s team all walk around with yellow hats on if they are workers, and the team leaders wear actual blue hats. How did I not see that coming?

So I come strolling up in a camouflage Tennessee Titans hat, a Captain America shirt, and old Army ACU pants. I definitely don’t look the part, but they are all nice and gracious. I get the assignment and head back to communicate it to the team I’m with from Bradley County. My team is awesome! They are a group of folks that came to make some stuff happen. It’s a conglomeration of Christians from First Baptist Cleveland, Philippi Baptist, Thompson Springs Baptist, and me, from West Cleveland Baptist. We have gone in and worked hard both days. Everyone is engaged and excited to be working for the Lord in a way that will show the love of Jesus to someone in need.

We were sent to a the home of a woman who is wheelchair-bound due to 2 broken hips. She was not around, so we dealt with her daughter Bonnie. There were rooms that were full of belongings – and one room that still had carpet that had been wet since the floods. Keep in mind – there had been about 2 feet of standing water in this house, so everything that got wet was exposed to all sorts of stuff in the water and is ruined. All sheetrock, carpet, insulation, furniture, … you get the picture – had to be busted and hauled to the road for trash pickup. This home needed attention in a bad way – and our team came in and whipped it into shape in one full day. Bonnie was blessed, and so was our team for the opportunity. We will be back at it tomorrow with a new project!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

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Be a Light in a Dark Place

Today was a good day. We got up and got an assignment to go help Charles Moses. I found out that Charles was saved when he was in his early-30s, and he has been walking with God for around 30 years now. He serves at his church helping specifically in the lives of the drug-addicted. Charles had no way to do what was required to salvage his home, and he was extremely grateful! He said this to me, “It’s nice to get your house fixed, but it’s really nice to have a bunch of Christians in your home.” It was a blessing for us as well!

Our team was up to the challenge. A few thoughts…
1. The devastation is surprising. It has had an impact on our entire team to see it in person. We had all seen pictures and heard reports, but when you walk into a home that was ruined, amidst a neighborhood that was ruined – it’s amazing. We heard a reporter say on the radio on the way to the house, “It doesn’t sound bad when you say only 10% of Houston homes were affected… until you realize that’s 110,000 homes!”

2. We have much to be thankful for… Charles and I sat outside and talked about the Lord and how good He is with the pile of debris that used to be his home looming large in front of us. He is still thankful. Walking through his home flashing big smiles and encouraging words, Charles reminded me that I can be thankful for Jesus no matter what may happen in this world.

3. Abide in Christ – because your home can let you down at any moment. Jesus will never let you down. He says in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Abide means to “take up residence”. Find your residence, your comfort, your sanctuary, your joy, your life – in Jesus – and He will never let you down!

God bless,

Pastor Matt

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Sharing Your Passion

Well, we made it! A team of volunteers that were put together quickly to respond to a disaster caused by a massive storm in Houston came together at 4:30 A.M. this morning outside the Crossnet Baptist Network. There are 11 of us on the team, and we come from 4 different churches. We span different generations and genders, but we come together for the purpose of showing the love of Christ to a specific part of our world that is hurting right now. We drove all day in a convoy of trucks having to maneuver around accidents the whole way. We spanned six states in order to get here – but we made it! Whew!

First off, I will admit it… I am pumped! I love to have opportunities that are out of the ordinary but absolutely necessary. It is a unique showing of the unity of the body of Christ when a group of strangers can organize and come together for the purpose of missions. Our corporate witness to the world is strengthened when we see needs and step in with the gospel and love for our neighbors.

I had an experience last night, though, that I’d like to share as I reflect on this first day of travel. I was at church, and we had pre-planned Randy Bonner to come speak about Ocoee Outreach months ago. Little did we know at the time of scheduling that his night at our church would be in the midst of “mission chaos” at Crossnet. Randy runs point on organizing these teams to go forth – and our team today represents the third team to go forward from Bradley County in the last 8 days. Pretty impressive…

So after Randy speaks, I feel led to cancel the final song and just invite the 25-ish faithful Sunday night attenders to come forward and pray over Randy. Not to be out-ministered-to, Randy says, “Hey, let’s also pray for Pastor Matt” How dare he! Just kidding – please pray for me often.

As the people semi-crowd around us, I feel hands here and there. But there were two hands that stood out. One was a small hand that hit around my hip, and the other was an even smaller hand that kept jumping around in the area of my knee. I peeked my eyes open, and I saw my two boys – Noah (7) and Silas (4) laying a hand on their daddy for this upcoming mission. I know it is probably hard for them when I leave for things. Most of the time, those things are not voluntary. I leave because I am a soldier and I am ordered to leave most of the time. But this time is different. I am leaving because I am choosing to leave for a week. Silas seemed to have a particularly hard time with that thought this time. But when I looked down at his attempt to pray for his daddy, it hit me…

He may not understand it fully, but he loves his daddy, he sees his daddy’s passion, and he trusts that his passion must be a good thing.

Now, I would never go on a mission trip purely to show my children what “right looks like”. That would be dishonest and manipulative. I go because it is the right thing to do – but I sincerely hope they see and understand that. It sure does ease my burden when I think about the understanding my boys are going to have about the need for missions when they see me excited about missions and taking advantage of opportunities to go. I hope they dip their toes in the pool of missions so they can see for themselves the beauty of taking the gospel to the world.

Here’s where the point gets even bigger… I looked on Facebook today during the long drive (I was not driving – I was a passenger – DO NOT FACEBOOK AND DRIVE!). I saw this picture that Brother Don Nichols had posted. It dawned on me! There were a lot more than 2 hands that were reaching out to pray for me. There were a group of faithful believers in prayer. What if they don’t understand why I, as their pastor, would leave them to go on a mission trip? What if they are dipping their toes into the pool of missions by walking up and giving prayer support for this trip?

God is so good! He intends to use you wherever you are to impact the world in some way. That might be your next door neighbor… it might be playing with a child at your church… it might be making a new person feel welcomed… it might even be to come to Houston or Florida for Disaster Relief in coming weeks… However He is leading you to impact the world, be passionate about Jesus – and wear that passion proudly! When you are passionate about something, you might just have people that will watch – even if they don’t fully understand – and begin to imitate what you do. Truly, we can say to the world,

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Keep praying for me – this is just day 1 of 7…

Pastor Matt

Sticky Note Confessions

This past Sunday was a beautiful outpouring of God’s grace on those who confessed their sins and shortcomings. We looked at being truly satisfied in Him.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”

– John Piper

A pastor friend of mine had talked about doing “sticky note confessions” at his church, and I began to think of how meaningful it might be to write out a sin or a struggle and physically stick it to the altar.  So I challenged the congregation of West Cleveland Baptist Church at the end of the sermon to fill in the following blank:

“If it weren’t for _____________________, I think I could be fully satisfied in the Lord.”

Whatever is on that line belongs on a sticky note, and that sticky note needs to be left at the feet of Jesus. He died so that you could truly live – not barely get by. I was blessed and encouraged to see the neat little area of post-it pads turned into a mess by the several that came forward to leave something at the altar that day!

If you are out there reading this and you have something that is stopping you from being satisfied in Jesus Christ, I’m praying for you as I write this. I want you to hit play on the video below, and as the song plays, hear the word of the Lord. Tear down those idols of the heart and learn to trust Him more! He is faithful! This might be the most meaningful way to spend 5 minutes in your whole day!


Trust Without Borders

I have had the pleasure of practicing the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong on guitar lately. Cinnamon Warnock intends to sing it at church in the future, so I am learning to play it to help her. As I sat in my living room practicing it tonight, I found myself really thinking through the words of the bridge as I sang. It says:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me; Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander; And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.”

The line that kept resonating in my heart was “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.” God is in the business of calling His children to walk in ways that they never thought possible. He has worked in the lives of many faithful believers through the centuries so that His glory would be revealed to those trapped in darkness. He is the Light of the world, and makes us lights in the world when we call Him Lord.

We have an awesome opportunity to live for his glory, but all too often, we put borders and boundaries on how far we are willing to go. Would you join with me in asking the Lord to guide our steps and direct our paths… to lead us in a way where we have no limits to what we will do for Him?

Father God – we thank you for your guidance and direction. We thank you for Jesus Christ and His ultimate, life-giving sacrifice. We pray that your glory would be revealed in our individual lives as well as the church. In those areas where we have stopped short or decided not to follow with complete trust – we repent of our unbelief. Lord, help us to overcome our unbelief! Holy Spirit, lead us to places where we have no borders on our trust in you! In Jesus’ name – Amen!

Multiplying Disciples

This past year, we have had a precious few members from West Cleveland Baptist Church that have taken the challenge to pursue discipleship as guinea pigs.

You see, I went to a conference that challenged me to “make disciples that make disciples.” I was on board with that concept from the very beginning, but the million dollar question still remained – “How?” I had read books, talked to other pastors, prayed, and even experimented with some of the best advice that was thrown out there. I had attempted T4T, 1-5-1, and had looked into TTI. I probably would be trying some other catchy 3 letter attempt at discipleship if things hadn’t come together for me at that conference.

I had come to a point where I thought my only real option left for discipleship was to write my own curriculum. That’s a recipe for feeling overwhelmed and never following through. It’s also completely unnecessary!

Rather than a curriculum, set of books, or special diet, the recipe was simple and literally would cost zero dollars and zero cents. I was challenged to gather a group of Christian men that desired to be disciples. We would commit to a process of Christian growth that would last approximately 1-year, and it would feature:

  • Reading through the Bible on a common reading plan (roughly 2 chapters a day/5 days a week)
  • Responding to our reading through daily journal entries
  • Memorizing Scripture (we used the Navigators Topical Memory System – 1 verse a week)
  • Accountability for following through on the commands of Christ
  • Prayer support
  • Reliance on the Holy Spirit

Well – at the end of a year, I can say that I’ve never been more proud in ministry than I am of these men that have walked with me through this process. I found that I needed it as much as anyone – and I’m the pastor!

As our year draws toward the end, the most exciting part of all is about to happen. Rather than addition – we intend to multiply. A group that has walked patiently through the Scriptures should be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our one small group of four men is praying for a multiplication into 2 groups totaling 10 men. Our ladies group will be following along with their own multiplication just a few weeks later. That may seem insignificant at first glance. But if you will watch the following video, I think you will see how effective multiplication can be in reaching the world with the gospel. I hope you walk away inspired, excited, and hungry to follow the commands of Christ (which includes the command to go make disciples).

If you desire to dig deeper in your faith and trust God for your spiritual growth, let me know as soon as possible so that we can get you plugged into a group of like-minded believers. Email me at or call me at 423.519.4890

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